Exactly why the exercisers were better at chemotherapy compliance isn't known, but Courneya said workouts may boost white blood cell counts. "If white blood cell counts fall during chemo, the chemotherapy sometimes has to be delayed or the amount of drug given reduced," he explained.
Both exercise groups also reported improvements in their self-esteem. "And that can be an important issue while undergoing chemotherapy because of hair loss and other concerns," Courneya said.
There were other benefits to exercise. "In the aerobic group, we prevented fitness declines. The resistance group increased strength. The aerobic exercise group prevented fat gain. The usual care group gained two pounds of fat and no muscle. The aerobic group did not put on fat. The resistance group added two pounds of lean body mass," he said.
Yoga provides benefits, too, according to Alyson B. Moadel, an assistant professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, who led the second study. Her team compared several quality-of-life measures among 84 women with early stage breast cancer who participated in yoga classes weekly for 12 weeks. They were measured against 44 women who didn't do yoga. About half of the women underwent chemotherapy or radiation treatment during the study period, while the others either had finished those treatments or did not need them.
The researchers found that yoga had pronounced benefits for those not receiving chemotherapy. "A once-per-week, gentle-seated yoga program can have significant benefits for breast cancer survivors who are not on chemotherapy, in the areas of emotional well-being and mood, and overall quality of life," she said.
Moadel speculated that t
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